England suffered that familiar sinking feeling as Australia seized command on the opening day of the new Ashes series in Brisbane.

Under huge pressure to regain the little urn in front of their own public, the Aussies made the best possible start after choosing to bat at The Gabba.

They clocked up 346 for three with captain Ricky Ponting leading the way with an unbeaten 137.

It was Ponting's ninth century in 13 Tests since surrendering the Ashes at The Oval 14 months ago -and took his career haul to 32, bringing him level with Steve Waugh.

Ponting was heavily criticised after Australia's series defeat last year and showed his emotion after reaching three figures with a jig of joy.

Alongside him, Mike Hussey proved the perfect foil in an unbroken stand worth 148 to ram home Australia's early advantage.

It was the toughest of starts for Andrew Flintoff although the England captain did at least manage to bag two of the three home victims.

Flintoff claimed the first wicket of the series, tying up opener Matthew Hayden with a lifting delivery which he could only guide to second slip.

But that was the only success in a one-sided opening session which saw Steve Harmison blitzed out of the new-ball attack.

Harmison had set the tone for the series in England with a ferocious assault on Justin Langer. But this time his opening delivery was so wide that it had to be collected by Flintoff at second slip.

Harmison went for nine runs in his first over and two more fours from Langer in his next persuaded Flintoff to withdraw his strike bowler from further punishment.

The Aussies began the afternoon session by creaming 26 in the first three overs before Langer chased a loose one from Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen held the catch at point.

Ashley Giles had been preferred to Monty Panesar and he picked up the third Australian scalp. Damien Martyn, who had just launched him over the top for four, tried a late cut and Paul Collingwood gobbled up the chance.

But that was England's last whiff of hope as Ponting and Hussey proceeded to grind them down.

A defiant Giles said: "It's always difficult on the first day of the series with all the nervous tension. We'll come out fighting tomorrow."